Graham Young's Verdict: * * * * *
It’s 30 years since Colin Welland valiantly proclaimed “The British are coming” on the back of the Oscar-winning success of Chariots of Fire.
That would have been a great title for a James Bond movie – or even the whole 50-year series, now topped off in such splendid fashion by the 23rd official 007 movie, Skyfall.
If there is such a thing as “the British film industry”, it can be mighty proud of itself today.
From creator Ian Fleming to stars Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes and even our own Aston Martin and Land Rover builders, this is a creme de la creme, homegrown production, directed by our own Sam Mendes and brilliantly shot by the cinematographer’s cinematographer, Roger Deakins.
After lensing films like The Shawskank Redemption and No Country For Old Men, Torquay-born Deakins has eight individual Oscar nominations to his name.
But only he will be feeling the pain of no wins, while the rest of us marvel at his extraordinary, action-packed opening sequence (which feels dangerously real) and the sumptuous title credits as they swirl away beneath Adele’s title song.
These first 15 minutes alone are a glorious reminder of why we love Bond, James Bond.
Reason enough to dance a jig at the end credit promise that ‘James Bond will return’.
But there’s so much more packaged in between, thanks to a deeply respectful script, written for the fifth consecutive film by regular pair Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.
John Logan (Gladiator/Hugo/Tango) now provides the extra Hollywood influences, previously supplied in Craig’s first two movies Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) by the Oscar-winning Paul Haggis (Crash).
With a little help from the mischievous Kincade (Albert Finney), we really begin to understand James Bond’s back story and his Scottish roots for the first time.
And, just as importantly, the history of M (Judi Dench) as she wrestles with her own legacy prior to a fiery climax that will be seen to more than match Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises for its ability to tie up loose ends.
Fiennes is an official called Gareth Mallory, while Ben Wishaw plays the youngest Q to date – and more than gets away with it now that the world is so much more I.T. driven.
Imagine dear old Desmond Llewellyn (1914-99) trying to programme even a mobile phone today and you can see how the next actor to inhabit the Bond mantle after Craig might well have to become the youngest yet.
Or least the youngest since the then 30-year-old George Lazenby in the underrated OHMSS (1969).
Skyfall’s new Bond girls include Bérénice Marlohe (Sévérine) and Naomie Harris (Eve) – both underused in terms of creating any jaw-dropping moments but impressively delectable all the same.
The use of gadgets is perfectly judged and one might even bring a tear to your eye.
Meanwhile, the score by Thomas Newman (nine unfulfilled Oscar nods since Shawshank!) would have graced any Hitchcock thriller.
More importantly, the composer knows just how to bring the past back into the present with judicious use of the Bond theme itself.
Complete with a Land Rover vs Audi battle and a delicious baddy in Jarvier Bardem as Raoul Silva (riffing off Anthony Hopkins’ Silence of the Lambs), Skyfall has something for everyone who understands Fleming’s legacy, though perhaps not so much for 12-year-olds new to the franchise.
As well as making Surrey’s Hankley Common look like Scotland, Mendes avoids many of the mistakes of his predecessors in terms of delivering too much excess, pointless padding and an almost slavish resort to formula.
By pivoting Skyfall between where Bond has been and where he needs to go to survive for another 50 years, Mendes has made a brilliant 50th anniversary film that’s also for now in the post 9/11 age.
> Next page: Mick Corfield's review of Skyfall >
Mick Corfield’s Verdict: * * * * *
After 21 previous sequels, it’s celebration time in more ways than one.
Because Casino Royale was so good, I found Quantum of Solace disappointing – so four years later I had a feeling of trepidation before watching Skyfall.
Could the makers pull off a Bond worthy of the 50th year anniversary and live up to my two favourite films, OHMSS and Casino Royale?
Well for someone of my 52 years, a strong story is a must with humour thrown in and what Cubby Broccoli once described as the film having ‘bumps at regular intervals to keep the audience interested’.
Does Skyfall produce this? Well, yes and no.
The story and delivery by a host of Oscar winners and nominees is first class and I thoroughly enjoyed watching a Bond film aimed at adults.
There’s also more humour than normally associated with Daniel Craig’s 007, with some lines beautifully delivered by all the cast and not the forced humorous moments of previous Bond films.
But there aren’t many ‘Knock ‘em dead stunts’ of the kind that made you want to see the film again because you couldn’t believe what you had actually seen the first time.
In all fairness, after 23 films it must be hard to think up something completely original and they have managed to pull off a couple of surprises.
Having been lucky enough to have a ticket for the World Premiere in London so that I could see it for a second time, Skyfall moves into my top three already.
Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli have made a film with fellow Bond fans in mind and I cannot thank them enough.
Skyfall is a brilliant Bond.